This review was previously posted on Goodreads.
THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SOME MINOR SPOILERS YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
The Way of Kings is the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s challenger to the Wheel of Time series. Brandon Sanderson himself is the man who finished the Wheel of Time series with the last two books at the behest of the Estate of Robert Jordan, so he has the chops to write. Further, Sanderson has written quite a few books that I personally have enjoyed, including the Mistborn Saga and Steelheart, and the Rithmatist. It’s safe to say, I enjoy this man’s writing.
In the Way of Kings, the world is constantly ravaged by “highstorms” which basically appear to be Hurricanes. The world has adapted to it, and there is some sort of magical quality to these storms as the currency, these gemstones, absorb “Stormlight”. The gems act as both a lightsource frequently, and the currency as well.
The book follows three primary storylines using point of view styled storytelling, along with interludes using tertiary characters. The primary characters are Kaladin (an ex soldier turned slave turned bridgeman), Shallan (the sheltered daughter of a dead nobleman trying to save her house), and Dalinar (a Highprince and uncle to the king). Each character has their own goals and wants, and the storylines are all interesting in their own rights.
The book is LONG, at just over 1000 pages. But I found myself reading it nonstop as its very character focused. Each character was interesting and while seperate, eventually their stories start to intersect.
The story starts with an assassin, called The Man in White, killing the King of the Aleshi, on the night of their treaty signing with this group called the Parshendi. The Parshendi take credit for the killing, and a war breaks out. It has been 6 years since the war had started when our story begins.
Kaladin’s story focuses on his trials as a slave turned bridgeman, a person who has to run large wooden bridges for a highprinces army. The bridgemen as expected to die as they are basically bait for the Parshendi archers. Kaladin is basically a broken man but eventually starts to overcome his own issues and tries his best to rally his fellow Bridgemen and keep them alive.
Shallan however, is the daughter of a noble who has died, and his family has decided to hide his death in an attempt to avoid creditors. She goes chasing after the kings sister, Jasnah, to steal an item called a Soulcaster. She eventually learns several amazing things about herself and discovers a love of learning, as Jasnah is primarily a scholar. A lot of her story is focused on learning about the world and the history of the world.
And finally, Dalinar is the uncle to the King and a Highprince, basically a leader of a country. He is a very honorable man who dislikes the games his fellow highprinces play with the war, and follows a very strict “Code” and forces his children to follow it as well. He bodyguards his nephew against assassins as well. Dalinar is plagued by visions throughout the book and a great deal of his story is him trying to figure out if he is going mad or not, along with dealing with the politics of war.
By the end of the story all three plot lines begin to tie together, and the ending was satisfying while also making me want to read the next book to see how things turn out.
Some things that are truly fascinating to me is the usage of racism as a way of life. The characters in Aleshi, the main country, are divided by the Lighteyes, and the Darkeyes. Your eye color determines your station and if you are a noble or not. A Darkeyes cannot be a noble and generally must obey the orders of the Lighteyes. Kaladin is a Darkeyes, as an example, while Dalinar and Shallan are lighteyes.
Further, woman are the scholars in Aleshi, while men deal with war and the like. In fact, Men do not learn to read or write, having their wives handle such things. Its quite interesting as beyond there, the gender’s are basically equal.
The Parshendi are, at least for now, an Enigma. Not much is known about them from the character’s point of view beyond the fact that they sing nearly constantly, and they hold their dead with the highest reverence. Whats really interesting is that there is a race of people who are totally subservient to the Aleshi called Parshman, which appear to be cousins of the Parshendi.
The last thing I want to touch on is the magic system. As with all Sanderson novels, there is a magic system here, but there seem to be only a few practitioners. First there is Soulcasting, which is something Jasnah and others like her can do. It basically lets them transmute any one thing into anything else. Like turning stone into bread for example. This is something that people do with the aid of Soulcasters.
There is also Surgebinding, of which the only one the reader knows about at the start is the Assassin in White. Surgebinding lets him defy gravity, push or pull objects, and stick objects together. Surgebinding requires Stormlight to use, and a Surgebinder absorbs the Stormlight that is stored in the various gems.
Finally, there are the Shardblades and the Shardplate. These are more magical artifacts, left over from a time when a group of beings called Radiants walked the world. These weapons are bound to a person. Shardplate is basically power armor in fantasy form, increasing its wearers strength, speed, and defense. Shadeblades are almost like plasma swords. They can cut nonliving material likes it nothing, and living matter they “kill” without actually damaging it. Get hit by a Shardblade in the arm, the arm itself dies and can never be used. Shardblades also must be summoned, and if the carrier is disarmed of one it vanishes into mist.
The Way of Kings is an interesting book and looks like a great intro to a new series. My only real issue is with its length, as some people may put off from its sheer size. But if you enjoyed Sandersons previous works or want a fantasy novel that is not the same old same old, give Way of Kings a try.